Everyone’s Home: Life in Athens Under Lockdown

Writers for Kathimerini's “K” magazine share their thoughts on life in the Greek capital currently under lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.


On the night of July 4, 2004, I was out. I was walking hurriedly back home, close to missing the kick-off for the Greece-Portugal final in the European Cup. Only cats were roaming in the streets, and I clearly remember thinking that I would never see my neighborhood this deserted ever again. There are some things you simply cannot anticipate.

Today my neighborhood is deserted again, of course. When I walked to the kiosk to buy the newspaper, the only person I saw was a lady with a dog, who changed sidewalks when she saw me, just in case. Time rolls on. I spend time with the kids, which I appreciate even though the circumstances are not ideal. I also read a lot, and obsessively follow the news; I even feel bored sometimes, something I do not remember experiencing in all my adult life.

But mainly, I think. I think about many things, but mostly one: How when all of this is over, it will resemble that night on July 4. We will come out of our houses, we will look at each other stunned, and we will embrace.

– Athos Dimoulas

I stare at the pipe under the sink for ten minutes. The water dripping from it falls in a red basin. It started leaking this morning. I watch as the water drips slowly and steadily, as if it were measuring time.

Earlier, I watched the clouds pass by my window in the same way, along with my four-year old daughter. She had suggested it. It’s as if the mania that had gripped her during the first days of lockdown has passed, and she has now adjusted to the new circumstances. She rested her tiny head on the armchair and quietly talked to herself while gazing into the sky. “Mommy, when the disease goes away, will I go to school?” Yes. “Will we go for ice cream?” Yes. “Will we go to Finland?” I don’t know why, but I also said yes.

Years ago, when my mother passed and the nurses made us leave the hospital room, I went down to the ground floor to call her. I went downstairs to call my mother, to tell her that my mother had passed away, so I could hear her say that everything would be alright. For a while, this kept happening to me, but eventually it stopped. Until now.

“Mom, is everything going to be okay?” Again, I said: “Yes”.  

– Manina Danou

In the morning, emails from teachers arrive one after the other while she still looks for her math homework. She completed it a week ago, but lost it in the house – how is that even possible? She bursts out laughing at my first attempts to cook Chinese food. She reads poems by Apollinaire, because she has to, and verses by Rupi Kaur, because she loves them. No, I am not kidding myself: I know that Tik Tok will eventually win her over by the end of the day.

She cuts and sews clothes – a family gift from her father’s side. We watch Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech for her English class. In the evening, she confides in me about her old childish fears, she shares secrets with me, small and big. Although, it’s clear, I shouldn’t expect her to talk to me about the issue that was raised within her teenage group of friends. They say among themselves that the schools will reopen after Easter. I tell her one day at a time.

 – Elis Kiss

And all of a sudden the clocks stopped their countdown. The alarm clock fell silent. We don’t rush to make it to school in time for the first bell. The app I usually consult for traffic information on the highway towards Faliro is now useless. The minute hands are not an enemy army anymore, marching in quickstep to achieve another defeat: that I didn’t manage to leave on time, to arrive early, to send that email, to get back home on time.

Time has suddenly expanded, it seems to be never ending; there is, after all, no expiry date on this quarantine. Along with this redefinition of time there has been a redefinition of work routines, of home life and of human relationships. Someone who would have been considered rude a few days ago because they refused a handshake is now seen as a responsible citizen. Those who we love we keep away from. We are present at our jobs working from a distance.

The only thing that stays the same is our house: it is our refuge, our safe space. There’s beauty in discovering it all over again, even if it happens when we’re scrubbing the most unlikely corners. It is wonderful to spend time with your loved ones without a timer. And when all this is over, it will be thrilling to rediscover the world.

– Maria Athanasiou

I make coffee. I open the balcony doors to breathe in fresh air. I feed the cats. I go on the internet. I read. I dust. I listen to the radio. I call my father, who’s in the village: “Eat well and be careful.”

I write for the newspaper. I answer emails. I cook. I watch television. I pet the cats. I put a load of washing on. I peel an orange. I go on the balcony. I write again. I speak with colleagues and friends on the phone. I go on the internet again. Maybe I’ll read a witty comment that will make me smile. These are the pieces that make up the puzzle of my new daily life in the times of a pandemic. The order might change but the overall picture stays the same: a mix of anxiety and optimism, a few “waves” of fear, love and gratitude for my loved ones, who are by my side even though they are not next to me, and a sense of responsibility.

A few days ago I went out for a short walk in the sunshine. I walked by a florist’s. I bought a bouquet of freesias. “To bring the spring inside the house”, I said to the florist, smiling. He grabbed another bouquet and gave it to me. “This is on the house,” he said. “And rest assured we will get through this!” Another week of confinement begins tomorrow. How different will we all be when this is over?  

– Tasoula Eptakili

This article was first published in Greek by “K” magazine.


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